We are all in some form of quarantine or social distancing situation, so we should have more time to do all those things we have been meaning to do, right? In an ideal world, maybe, but as we all know and are experiencing, this is not an ideal world. Things change at the drop of a hat, illnesses spread, and if we don’t have the news channel on, someone is texting us the latest bad news.
But, being stuck at home doesn’t have to be the same as being “stuck”. Creatively, I have had boundaries pushed and pressed all in ways that are making me grow as an artist and communicator I am sure. Galleries are moving to online gallery openings, studios are offering conference video classes or online material, and several sources are giving out daily prompts to keep hands and minds busy.
I am going to dare you for a moment to not be busy.
Yesterday, Shane and I listened to our church service in our hammock, then continued to rest for about an hour, which was really hard for me to do. I have so many online things and videos I need to record, I have been missing the gym, and I actually have been doing very little felting, but that break was good. A christian music group posted a picture this morning on Instagram a note on their thoughts for another week of the same thing. They urged the viewers to be still in this season, to receive God’s presence as sabbath for our souls, and to quiet our bored, overactive, and frustrated minds.
Psalm 19:14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer
I am back to a busy Monday; yes, even though I am not going into the dance studio where I teach, I will be welcoming dozens and dozens of kids into my home through online classes. I have been editing lesson plans, going over what went well last week and what to add this week. I have been listening to recital music, trying to figure out how to teach these last few counts over a video for various dances. Through all the business, I think back to yesterday, listening to praise music in the hammock, and am thankful we took the time to sabbath in the sunshine.
The regal or royal walnut moth is one of the largest moths around my area. They are a gorgeous vibrant orange with a muted brown almost grey with cream highlights. These striking colors are just one part of what makes them so interesting. After all, these moths begin as a giant caterpillar, green and almost frightening. They have large horns that look menacing and if you find one, if you handle it, it may thrash it’s bulging body in attempts to scare you. In all reality, the regal moth’s caterpillar form, the hickory horned devil, is a docile, chubby green caterpillar that means no harm.
These caterpillars can be as big as an average hotdog and you may find it on the ground rather than on a branch because of its peculiar life cycle. The hickory horned devil does something a little different compared to most caterpillars seeing that it doesn’t spin a cocoon that we naturally relate to most moths. Instead, the little devil makes his way down from shade trees and burrows in the ground, choosing the earth to make his transformation into the beautiful regal moth.
Maybe it is strange that I would be writing about an insect in the dead of winter, but right now is when the transformation is taking place. The sun is shining less and snow blankets the earth in its sheet of white, but underneath all of that, down in the dormant earth, a small creature is being transformed into something beautiful. The change is happening now, even through all this wind and ice.
Maybe you are in your winter in life. You just don’t see a change happening, all you see is cold, unforgiving harsh weather patterns. But, change can happen in the wait. Maybe you are watching someone else weather the cold storms and you can’t understand why they are not changing the way you think they should, maybe the change is happening underneath, deep down, where you just can’t see it yet.
I pray that this moth is a reminder for you this weekend, whether you are waiting out your own winter storm or watching someone you love weather their own, God made it possible for a green, horned slow moving caterpillar find it in themselves to dig deep and wait it out just to reemerge a beautiful moth. So if God has a plan for a caterpillar, He certainly has a plan for you.
I have been doing the online Bible study “Defiant Joy” by Candace Payne and doing the YouTube live videos on Monday nights with Mandisa, the singer. The online study began August 13 and will end September 24. It has been joyful for certain, but it has been thought provoking too. Yes, I could be doing this study by myself, and you could too, especially if you missed the window of dates it was offered online. But, I encourage you to do it with your ladies class, study group, or friends because just a little bit of discussion over things that are in the study guide make them become more real when talking or listening to other people.
I had one of these “more real” moments last night when we were discussing the homework, or “funwork” as Candace refers to it in the study guide. One of the things you could do was simply write down big hopes or dreams in the space provided because last week was about hope and how it is the anchor of joy. Mandisa asked for people to share their hopes and dreams if they did that section, and in the live comments feed became a blur with people writing down trips they wanted to take, places they wanted to see, things they wanted to do and things like that. A few people shared hopes they had written that had already come true with in that week, like hoping their house would sell and it did.
I sheepishly wrote, “I did write down hopes and dreams, but sometimes I get worried that if I get hung up on my hopes and dreams, that I won’t follow God’s will. Anyone else?”
No one in the comments whizzing by really answered me, but Mandisa spoke wisdom that was a direct answer and it gave me a whole new perspective on my hopes and dreams. I’m not sure how it even started, because I don’t think she read my comment out loud or anything, but she said the verse that said God will give you the desires of your heart if you delight in him.
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart
The big thing was if you take delight in the Lord, or if you are seeking first the kingdom of God, another verse someone brought up quickly in the comments, your hopes and dreams can become your reality. It is so simple, yet so profound, that if we are putting God first, then our hopes will line up with God because we are desiring what God desires. Why had I never thought of it that way?
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you
She probably didn’t linger too long on that point, but it was long enough that I could just breath this sigh of relief. My hopes and dreams may not come to fruition in the way that I picture them today, in this very moment, but I shouldn’t be afraid to dream them. Right about then, someone brought up the song “Dream Small”, which is now echoing in my ears, so I’m going to share it here:
As I reevaluate my hopes and dreams and I can say with confidence, “None of these are against God’s kingdom, they are good things, and I am trying to figure out this life and what God intends, desires, and has planned already.” This is where free will comes in, and this is a turn the discussion didn’t take last night. The great part is, being part of the group chat and this discussion got me thinking of free will after realizing that beautiful truth about God fulfilling desires.
I have a lot of big hopes and dreams, but I know not all of them can happen all at once. Since I am chasing the kingdom of God, should a door open, it is up to me to choose whether or not to go through. God may open several doors, and I might have to figure out what my greatest desire is. Or God might make one door really big and obvious, but it will still be up to me to go through or not. That, to me, is kind of cool that we are given those choices.
It is like when someone hires me to do their graduation photo’s for them. I know they will want portraits and some unique shots. Then I get to know them a little, and I take pictures or give up ideas that line up with their hobbies or personalities, things they hadn’t thought of.
I actually just hired an artist to create a logo for me and my sculpture work. I gave her an idea of what I wanted and the message I wanted to get across. In the end, she is the one who is creating the work. Just like I am the one who takes the photographs during a senior shoot and edits them later.
In either case, if the client decided to micro manage, you can bet it would probably hinder the artists abilities. If I had a teen telling me exactly the pictures they wanted, and never took my advice of trying a new angle, or letting me add a vignette to the photo, sure, they would get what they want, but they would miss out on even more options and ideas that would still have them at the center of it. If I micro managed the artist creating my logo, I might never get to see it with the options of different fonts or colors that ultimately might look better than what I had in mind. My idea would still be center, but it would be lacking the options and talent of the graphic designer whose specialty is to create something like that.
If I try to micro manage God, because I am so set on my hopes and dreams, then I might miss out on doors he is opening for me because I have tunnel vision on the wall I have to knock down instead. It becomes a delicate balance of hoping and dreaming and keeping my eyes open for all the options God, the greatest artist of all, wants to give me as I am chasing after the kingdom.
And by the way, here is a preview of my logo. What do you all think?
I was blessed to have the time to have a husband who was willing to stay home with our dogs and enjoy the whole week of Creation Northeast. If you have never heard of creation before, it is a christian music festival that begins Wednesday night and goes worshipping, praising, and teaching through to Saturday night. It was their 40th year anniversary, which brought many speakers to note the importance of that number in the Bible, and how they viewed it as a turning point for even bigger and better years to come. It was neat to be there for that special occasion, but 40th year or not, it was refreshing to be there for all of the speakers and singers I got to hear. I have wanted to go for the entirety of the festival for a long time, and finally got to.
So many wonderful things were unexpectedly revealed to me or convictions were just lovingly reinforced. From tables selling shirts that read “Worthy” to speakers getting to the nitty gritty of what I claim to believe, to singers pouring out their heart, it is hard to walk away from such an event saying, “I got nothing.” Instead, I feel fueled up and ready to take on what ever life throws at me after spending time fellowshipping with like-minded people. As if to reinforce that, a few times speakers or singers briefly mentioned the importance of fellowship, highlighting the ultimate example of fellowship as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and it was so good to hear and be reminded that I am not alone in this walk, even though I spent time there alone after my friend left, and even though the mounting antagonism against people who believe strongly in something through the media.
One stand there had beautiful wooden signs with scripture on them, engraved in, dotted with color. They were beautiful. Sitting in front of the signs were a few boxes of little Jenga sized blocks that, on each side, had a little truth from God’s word. I snapped a picture of them with the adolescent treatment center my childhood church goes to in mind, what a great trinket we could give the girls if they would be allowed to have them. I sent the picture off to the woman who goes every week and she thought unfortunately with everything that has been going on their lately, they may not allow them to be given to the girls. Despite that news, I offered perhaps a lesson plan could be done around them instead, to which she responded, “Great!” and a thumbs up emoji.
So I created a coloring sheet with the four truths that were coupled with scripture from the blocks and created a lesson plan to tie them together.
I began with the Matthew 21 story of Jesus and the fig tree and how when Jesus and his disciples approached the fig tree, all leafy and green, yet it had no fruit that Jesus said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And right then, the tree withered up and was dead. I asked if any one of them ever had a house plant, because I have, and no matter how hard I try, I tend to always kill them! But it is a slow, sad process of yellow leafs appearing, then a few leafs falling off, and it takes a while, but eventually the plant dies, but not the fig tree, this whole tree died right away. As some continued to color, one read the verses from Matthew:
Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Faith will bring victory, and we could see that very plainly when Jesus commanded the fig tree to no longer bear fruit. This became possible because Jesus’ father is God, the creator of all things, the king of all things. Then I had someone else read the next verse, and someone eagerly read the Psalms:
Pslam 103:19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
He isn’t like a king, a mayor, a president who is human. A man running for office might make a promise before he gets into that seat of power, and he might not always follow through, because he is human, he is flawed. But God is perfect, and God is king over everything, so his promises will come true. Promises like we find in Deuteronomy where he says he will never leave you nor forsake you, or like ones in Isaiah where those who hope in him will rise up on wings like eagles because God’s promises are still true.
With that truth from the little wooden block and their coloring sheet being said, I then read a version of the Corinthians verse I found in the New Living Translation, because some versions weren’t easy to understand.
2 Corinthians 1:20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!”
With these amazing promises you would think it would be easy to follow what the Bible says, but the ways of the world are painted as so much easier or more fun. Take for example, staying up late Saturday night at a party, doing things you shouldn’t verses waking up early Sunday to go to church. Or maybe it seems easier to make fun of the new or different girl, or it is at least easier to say nothing.
Someone who knows this all to well is someone named Zach Williams. I asked the girls to raise their hands if they knew who Zach Williams was. Those who weren’t zeroed in on their coloring sheet looked at me like they wanted to say they knew, but as they thought of names, they really didn’t. I revealed to them, one of their favorite songs to sing, Chainbreaker, is by Zach Williams; the eyes I could see lit up.
I gave a brief rundown of Zach’s personal testimony that I had gotten to hear last summer at one of his concerts. Zach’s story begins with despite growing up in a christian household, one where he knew the truths on the girl’s coloring sheets, Zach still fell in with the wrong crowd. Once in college, he began his music career, which landed him a spot as a singer in a rock band. From the outside, he looked successful, touring in Europe with his band, but everything you would think that comes with being in a rock band like drugs and alcohol followed. He was unhappy and his marriage was falling apart when one day he heard a song by Big Daddy Weave, a christian group, on the radio and right then and there as he puts it, “God showed me a glimpse of what my life could be like, if I would turn from my sin and follow him.” So he did, he quit that band and made things better with his wife, and since things were going so well, he thought the music chapter in his life was over, but he was wrong! As soon as he started to follow God’s calling and write christian lyrics, God opened door after door for him!
One of his songs is titled “Fear is a Liar” and I told the girls we were going to listen to it as soon as someone read the John verse.
John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The devil wants us to think his way is easier, more fun, or what other people are doing, but he knows no truth. Jesus, the son of the King of Kings, the king who created everything is the one who said that truth. I emphasized, every time Zach Williams says fear, he is referring to the devil, because the devil creates fear, while God provides a perfect love that casts out all fear.
I didn’t even see Zach Williams this year at Creation, but the little blocks I found there were just the perfect thing to bring back and share with those girls who need to know love. You never know what you will find at Creation, but there is always something encouraging, something enlightening, and something dare I say beautiful.
By the way, if you want to print the coloring sheet, please do! If you fold it in half, then in half again, you can create a rectangle log that you can tape together and let it set up so you can be reminded of a promise from God’s word. You can turn it to one that speaks to you, or maybe turn it day by day, what ever works for you!